Vassar Student Review

Vassar Student Review

VSR Digital Archive

Summer Ephemera

I didn’t think I would miss it.

The way the sky crumples in the summer

leaving the hawks and butterflies

sprawling for their bedrooms.

The lovely taken out of heat,

the sky one big muscle,

cramping and cramping until we feed it

everyone we know who is remarkable—

the dandelions, my father, new history.

It’s the summer we love our bodies most.

We don’t worry what we are eating,

we stop crossing our fingers.

The cement hot and dreamy,

the birdsong new.

Soil cracked where the blueberry bush died.

It’s the way laughter sounds underwater—

I cannot tell if you are laughing or screaming,

hurting or remembering.

Small daffodils bowing their heads,

white bees tangled in the sycamore,

sun dust like dandruff in her hair—

I forget you are my mother.

It’s the summer our bodies become cyanotype skin

scorching into the under.

This way our stomachs are forever.

A Hospital Neighbor

My dad calls the woman in the room across the way Nancy Reagan.

He says that’s who she looks like, but I don’t know.

My bed doesn’t face her way. I can only imagine her.

I see her window reflected onto mine.

Someone has hung three brightly colored pictures:

lilies, a butterfly, what looks like home.

Nancy Reagan does not speak. She writes “thank you” on her whiteboard.

She films a silent video for her grandchildren. 

One day she falls from her bed and cries and cries and cries.

It is the first time I hear her make a sound.

Her grandchildren are gone. No nurses come to lift her up. 

I would save her if I weren’t connected to wires and tubes,

if my legs were a little stronger, if I could scream.

Every day I move a little more, and her a little less.


We leave the hospital on the same day.

Her EMTs arrive the moment before mine.

She cries again. Her pictures are gone.

I ask my nurse where Nancy is headed. She doesn’t smile.

Home. Hospice. Home again.

The EMTs hoist me away. Nancy stays.

A Day Without Definition

Rain poured out over the glen—

as mist engulfed the green landscape, I wondered what language


the land thinks in. Wild rivers, cradled valleys, aching hillsides—

what are they thinking as they see us here? Does the earth have a word


for the rain? Maybe I am too anthropocentric, maybe the land has a way

of speaking that is far beyond anything human language could express.


What is semantics to an oak tree? Syntax to the grass?

I have been thinking too much about language,


about the words of myself and others. I wish I could experience the world

in true silence—no thoughts, no memory, no me.


Maybe then, I could know the rain like the earth does.

Maybe then, I could look at the bugs in the dirt and wish for nothing more.

Time/ Cut

It is the hour of news and

I want to collage like rachel

maddow to meddle with

Just-pictures/ Just-images so faithlessly

that war becomes meaningless and

I can smear child-stick-glue across

your checks to press clippings of

Vanity and Glamour and Time magazine.

En de Parfum and you laugh with full breath—!


Oh to collage at the printer-parts eating away

in the whirls, their senseless


All is so equally ignored

so easily bored.


—He’s Alive! with the curse of onlookers

with stony black eyes


and they fall away like paper scraps.


In your honor,

from your poem titled “rooms”: I



—and I add three lines: and get an immense urge/ to jump and/

mingle with the sky.

After the Mirage

After the mirage

when color fills the edges

of the world

seeping into

creeping thoughts—

a corrosion of that

which hangs like barnacles through

this seasick waking tide.


After the mirage

move through corners

concerned thoughts

fought on

leftover pages crinkling

through the edges

of fantasy’s border with vibrating static,

a rippling pond.


After the mirage

I’m falling free

tell me to find

tell me I must find time

of total neutrality.


After the mirage

the air is thick

so thick

I breathe water

in pool-bottom silence and sink

back to what you ended

4in me.


After the mirage

my eyes are granitized and

they are also

as shapeless as torn jeans.


After the mirage

it is shame which speaks

what did I conjure?

what do I owe to my soul?

Porch Swing


Do you take honey in your tea? Do you read crime novels?

I want a porch when I’m older, a porch with a swing.

I want to sit on that porch and drink sweet tea and read John Grisham.


I hate when the sun sets, or I like it while it’s happening but not once it’s through.

Breathe a little quieter, honey, for me. It rattles when you inhale, you know,

like a snake. The warning before the bite.


“We need to stop selling guns,” you say, and you take a sip of coffee.

I burn my mouth trying to agree.

I’ll stop making the jokes you don’t like, I’ll stop bleeding out loud.


We need to move to Montana, live on a farm. When the cows get old

we’ll send them to the electric chair.


I buy a new mason jar because I can’t stand the thought of spilling out the pasta sauce.

Don’t worry too hard about me, my sensibilities are too delicate for red sauce.

As if I could handle the mess.


As if you could reach me. As if you could bear the cold.

Does it hurt? Do the needles hurt?

The fire alarm goes off and my hair is still wet,

our breath steams up in front of us on the steps.

I don’t know how to ask what love is supposed to feel like

but I figure you would know.


I see her and she sees me:
Scantily dressed, shivering cold.
Exhausted, terrified.
As Gabriel stood before her, 
now she stands before me—
Her longing eyes looking upward,
Her beautiful fingers pointed upward
to the walls of heavenly Jerusalem.
I stare; my shorts too short, neckline too low.
I fall and let my knees touch the stone floor;
its cold and I can’t help but shake.
The chapel is full of tourists, 
but suddenly I don’t know—
It’s only me and the organ and the virgin.


The woman you lost, 
who will always be dark-haired
is impossible not to want. 
I’m forever a child looking 
out my window at the night sky.

Don’t you wonder sometimes? 
I’ll tell you everything. 
I won’t change.

The old man said the woman must 
obey the law. 
The meaning of becoming a 
historical subject. 
But I’ll touch the world 
with bare hands. 
Even if it burns.

*Found lines from Tracy K. Smith poems “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?” + “I Don’t Miss it” + “Interrogative”

Live Lobster

Pianos bluntly wandering down aisles with unrolling intentions
Repeats skip-skip-skipping on dirty water- collectives uncurling
Jawstrings and drumstones snapping
Paperbands and rulers who are too taxing
Gentle goodbyes and forwarn lornings
Corpsy chords clutching eggs in oyster shells
Yolks running half-marathons from the necks of oxen
Greeks unfolding origami on Normandy beaches
Yellowfin and wallface cutlets, redbread in circles
Scissor parts handles leads or leeds or leads or leashes
Brushes cutting both ways
Roaring separation of paper from other paper that flips pils nils nil O
Gift-wrapping station
Yellow bow
Bows that unfold people like china bulls and papal bulls and hot wax pressed into the skin
Mottled Frisian stomachs with anvils like gall pebbles, pork on the stove (my face) smelling like piss (my face again)
French tastes in shallow seas, housing projects, foundational myths, postlapsarian afterbirth swimming pools
Top tip of the mixed-up god tower global bubble Manhattans that never fall down
Bubbles in the saucepan, pane of window like pregnant men
No escapes
No removes
Beluga whale with throat cancer balatine balenciagas Balotelli loves it on the glass table
Basking fish bakes himself on tanning bed
Bass line loves ecstacy, six fingers turn loving when the mini-golf windmill falls down
Basically basuda drakes with Nigel Farage drink in hand, swerving at the bar
Bondsmen and Bond grappling fully clothed in the steamroom
Cedarpines chairsitdowns
Circle skylights on minimalist chandeliers of fire alarms and jungle gyms
Pushups on the jaguar’s back, situps with the ocelot
Costs a lot to be there, costs a lot to live
Delivery service brings back dish asked for in Lebanese in Genovese hardware JavaScript design mug, porcelain stain on titanium sneakers, Goya cologne and Frankfurt bombing smell, department secret department store fire conflagration scandal coverup scandal (tragedy) disease not gotten
French flight attendant of true mortality striking blow for blow for blow for blow with snakeless spines in lizard manes and polar bear capes
Chimpanzees at anthole Nasdaq with big stick screaming
Crossed viaducts in airvents and elevatrices and ways out that too big are not for heros our, hero sandwich in hand like islands farway from rock aways from rock two thirds from son
Rockefeller missing in macy’s arms like forgiven startup job cancer scare malignance averted turmeric
Bloody cheeks add bared hearts, then you make for two
Broken bones that are just bones, bones really and alonely
Just bones
Real bones
Teeth stretched out across eras, Minogue to Spears to Swords to Bronze to Mesozoic to Mesa to full table to watershed finances, highlands in present days, not so might now and again
Baryshnikov botulism in gourmet spam can fruits in suspended juice like democracy dates julie ates juliennes at dinner party paris 1960 something different entirely
Soul food in our lie, their lie, my lie
Two saucers, two bowls, two cups, two sets, couple parties, one kid, one tv, couple pigeons in the square outside
Squares and rectangles on walls like cleats on shoes poking holes in narratives, voting with et cetera and Ctulhu contraption non-negotionable notaries
benighted Baked eggs running full marathons like Greeks in broken city states copied from Ur
Pianos doing jogs in halfway markets like little lions
Celtic tabby purrs, sips cyanide milk from massive glass
Blue party straw
Lots of twists and turns   

Drawing on the Walls

I know I’ll get in trouble
For drawing on the wall,
But this crayon-marker masterpiece
Is my greatest work of all.

If I put my thoughts on paper
For some temporary praise,
They’ll be stuck up on the fridge
And then be gone in several days.

But walls are a sturdy canvas
To scrawl my every feeling.
As I sketch and stretch and scribble,
One day, I’ll reach the ceiling.

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